Disclosing Death in Texas

By
Real Estate Agent with Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME

This post originally appeared on www.RErockstar.com on May 26, 2010.

A Place To Rest

Do you have to tell the buyer?

Death is a topic that most people don’t want to talk about in general and in real estate, it’s no different. I’ve been asked a few times about the details regarding death and disclosure in the state of Texas (more specifically, in San Antonio) when buying and selling a home. Questions such as; “This home seems cheap for this neighborhood, did someone die here?,” “It says ‘estate sale‘, does that mean that grandma died in the house?,” or “Do you know how they died?” are common, especially if there’s some indication of death, such as an estate sale.

The Texas Property Code covers this in Section 5.008(c):

Section 5.008(c) A seller or seller’s agent shall have no duty to make a disclosure or release information related to whether a death by natural causes, suicide, or accident unrelated to the condition of the property occurred on the property or whether a previous occupant had, may have had, has, or may have AIDS, HIV related illnesses, or HIV infection.

When a seller (or someone else) dies on or in a property, there is no requirement to disclose – as long as the death is related to natural causes, suicide, or unrelated to the property’s condition (if it is related to the condition of the property, you should be disclosing the defect, regardless of the death). However, the Texas Property Code does not mention homicide (murder), and this becomes a gray area that is often discussed in real estate law circles.

Disclose, disclose, disclose.

It is my opinion that disclosure is the best course of action when it comes to death. I am not an attorney and therefore can only tell sellers and buyers in San Antonio what the Texas Property Code states (and refer them to a real estate attorney who specializes in these issues), but when in doubt – disclose. I’ve never heard of a case where a seller runs into trouble because they’ve disclosed too much.

My view is that you’re better off disclosing the death now, before your neighbors do. Neighbors like to talk and tell potential buyers info they know about a home. No one wants to be surprised by the news of a death on the property, so if you disclose it up front, you eliminate that potential awkward situation when the buyer comes back to you and says “I hear someone died on the property.”

If you’ve experienced a death in your home or on your property and you wish to not disclose the fact to your agent or any potential buyers, I suggest you speak with a qualified real estate attorney beforehand to be sure you don’t run afoul of any laws.

photo courtesy of astimewise

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Rainmaker
630,071
Don Rogers
Keller Williams Realty Chesterfield - O'Fallon, MO
Realtor, Broker, CDPE, GRI, OnullFallon MO & St Charles County MO homes

Very good advice sir on seeking legal advice when it comes to death on the property.  This is always a topic that gets a lot of attention.  The sad part is the neighbors don't always know the whole truth.

Jun 27, 2010 09:46 AM #1
Rainer
104,571
Andrew Herren
Craig Massee Real Estate - Milledgeville, GA

I had a listing once that the previous owner had killed himself in. The second time I showed the home to a couple the husband asked me if someone had killed themself in there. I told them yes. They still made an attempt to buy the home but credit issues prevented the sale. This home was in a small satellite town in my area that I was not very familiar with. I realized later that the couple already knew the answer to the question they had asked me, I think they were just curious what my response would be. I say the truth will set you free....disclose...disclose...disclose.

Jun 27, 2010 09:55 AM #2
Rainmaker
255,968
Tim Bradley
Contour Investment Properties - Jackson Hole, WY
Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY

If you sell apartment complexes, you are sure to sell units that have had deaths in them. It's a fact of life!

Jun 27, 2010 10:09 AM #3
Ambassador
729,582
Christopher and Stephanie Somers - Realtors - Philadelphia Real Estate
Realtor / Owner - RE/MAX Access - Philadelphia, PA

Matt - "Disclose disclose disclose" is always a great practice !  When in doubt, disclose !  You are right in that those questions can come up, especially for the estate sales.  We have had a few of these cases recently here in Philly and have heard agents ask the same questions in terms of disclosure practices.  

Jun 27, 2010 10:13 AM #4
Rainmaker
75,818
James Malanowski
theJEMgroup.com (DRE #01373117) - Palmdale, CA
REO Broker, Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond, CA

One more piece of evidence that real estate is local ... In CA we are required to disclose the death of anyone in the property within 3 years of the sale UNLESS the death is AIDS-related then there is no requirement - even if someone died of AIDS the day the property is put on the market.

If we are asked directly if someone died in the house and the death was AIDS-related we must answer yes but are not allowed to disclose the cause.

Jun 27, 2010 01:25 PM #5
Ambassador
673,917
Lee & Pamela St. Peter
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522 - Raleigh, NC
Making Connections to Success in Real Estate

Matt, I'm curious...  just how do you disclose that fact?  In the MLS?  On the feature sheet? 

Jun 27, 2010 08:23 PM #6
Rainmaker
815,964
Richard Weeks
Waller Group - Dallas, TX
Realtor, Associate Broker - Manager Business Development

Matt,

Since a murder is not a natural caused death it would need to be disclosed.  I definitely agree one should disclose all they know.  Don't know of anyone who got in trouble for over disclosing.

Jun 28, 2010 07:29 AM #7
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Lee and Pamela - Because it is not a required disclosure, there is no "official" way to disclose such a thing.  I would disclose it to the agent, so that when the question arises, it can be handled.  Of course, if the death was caused by a property condition, then it is something that needs disclosed and should be disclosed on the Seller's Disclosure form (as part of the details).

Jun 28, 2010 02:22 PM #8
Rainmaker
1,108,339
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

We have to disclose deaths out here if they happened within the last three years. Maybe it's two years. I'll have to check. Fortunately, I haven't had the need to do that yet.

Jul 21, 2010 12:44 AM #9
Anonymous
Anonymous
m

What about a homicide in a rental property in Texas?  If the homicide occurred prior to the current landlord's purchase must the current landlord disclose this information to potential tenants?  Interested in anyone's info.

Sep 02, 2010 12:16 AM #10
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

"Disclose, Disclose, Disclose."  Easy for yall to say.  I just bought a short sale to flip.  I'm a Realtor.  I just recently found out from a neighbor there was a suicide outside the home by hanging two owners ago.  She jumped out a window.  A ten yr old neighbor found her hanging against the wall.  I will not be disclosing this.  I didn't know it when I bought it.  I think it was kind of messed up for the neighbor to tell me quite frankly. Why would you tell a new neighbor this?  All this disclose talk is BS.  The law has deemed suicide not material.  I don't think it's material.  Some might, but they shouldn't.  I think all this disclose talk would be a lot different if it were your own home.  The article says "I’ve never heard of a case where a seller runs into trouble because they’ve disclosed too much."  That's crap.  I have represented a client where she backed out of a deal bc she thought the house was haunted.  It was an estate sale.  Turns out the owner didn't die in the property.  She died in another state.  My client still insisted the house was haunted.  Having sold about two hundred homes I can tell you one thing "buyers are crazy".  And, I've never seen anywhere ever a disclosure with suicide or any death for that matter.  Food for thought "what about an overdose?"  I have listed a home where the girl overdosed while I had it listed.  We took it off the market went through probate and back on the market.  Not disclosing that one either.

Aug 20, 2013 01:19 AM #11
Anonymous
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Mar 12, 2014 05:38 PM #12
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Matt Stigliano

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